Asked whether the Prime Minister would discuss the G8 transparency agenda during his meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper that day, the PMS said it would be an opportunity to discuss all aspects of the G8 agenda. Responding to a follow up question, the PMS said transparency was important, which was why it was part of the G8 agenda. He said the British government would continue to work with G8 partners to make progress in that and all areas of discussion at the G8 Summit. Asked about reports that Bermuda was resisting efforts for greater transparency, the PMS said he understood that the government of Bermuda had explained that those reports did not represent their position. He said the British government had been making progress in this area with all overseas territories and crown dependencies and, given that progress had already been made, more could be achieved during ongoing discussions.
Asked about the NHS and transparency, the PMS said the Prime Minister shared the view of the Health Secretary.
Royal Bank of Scotland
Asked a question on Stephen Hester stepping down as the chief executive of the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), the PMS said the Prime Minister entirely agreed with what the Chancellor had said on the matter, RBS was moving on from a rescue phase. Asked a question on finding a replacement for Mr Hester, the PMS said there would be a process which the RBS board would rightly lead on. Asked about the Chancellor’s involvement, the PMS said it was expected that a company board would engage with shareholders regarding future strategic planning and, through UK Financial Investments (UKFI), the government was a major shareholder of RBS. He said that the RBS board and Stephen Hester had explained that RBS was seeking a chief executive to lead the bank through the return to private ownership and beyond. Asked if there was a timetable for the reprivatisation of RBS, the PMS said there was no timetable and he pointed out that what counted was doing the right thing for the economy and taxpayers. Asked if it was important that £45 billion of taxpayers’ money was recouped, the PMS said the Prime Minister shared the view of the Chancellor around supporting the British economy and getting British taxpayers’ money back. Asked if the Prime Minister regarded the announcement of 2,000 job losses at RBS as good for taxpayers, the PMS made the point that any job losses were a big blow for those involved, which was why the government had a range of programmes to address those issues. Asked a follow up question on whether a leaner organisation would attract perspective buyers, the PMS said this had been the biggest bank bust in the world and there had been a very large rescue job. The right thing to do would be to have a bank focused around its core business supporting the British economy.